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Wednesday 18 March 2020 11.00 - 13.00
M-2 FAM17 Out-of-wedlock Fertility and Bridal Pregnancies
Lipsius, 002
Network: Family and Demography Chair: Jan Kok
Organizer: Paul Puschmann Discussants: -
Kersti Lust : Bitter Fruits of Merry Life? Survival Chances of Children born out of Wedlock in Nineteenth Century Rural Estonia
In the nineteenth century, many European countries witnessed an upsurge in illegitimacy ratios. It has generally been interpreted as a result of weakening social control due to industrialization, urbanization, and migration. Although children born out of wedlock were mainly an urban phenomenon, high ratios also could be found in rural ... (Show more)
In the nineteenth century, many European countries witnessed an upsurge in illegitimacy ratios. It has generally been interpreted as a result of weakening social control due to industrialization, urbanization, and migration. Although children born out of wedlock were mainly an urban phenomenon, high ratios also could be found in rural regions. Recent research on out-of-wedlock births has explored the reasons behind the occurrence of illegitimate births from an individual-level perspective and the direct consequences of the birth. This paper considers both questions by using individual level data from two economically advanced parishes in post-emancipation rural Estonia from 1834-91.
The illegitimacy ratio in Estonia rose from c. 3-4% in the 1840s to c. 7-8%, in the 1880s-1890s. In the area under study, the ratio increased from 2.8 to 4.6. (Helme) and from 1.9 to 6.9 (Holstre). The low illegitimacy rate in comparison with other parts of (non-Catholic and non-Orthodox) Europe is astonishing given that the mean age at marriage for women in Estonia was close to the figures in North-Western Europe and Estonian villagers, as has been suggested by folklorists, considered premarital intercourse normal.
Data from Helme and Holstre indicates that less than 5% of unwed mothers were under 20. The average age of mothers delivering a baby outside marriage was 27. Therefore, illegitimate births seem to result more from singlehood than from ‘merry life’ as young adults. Over half of women bearing illegitimate children went on to marry but in most cases it happened only years after the birth of the illegitimate child and very seldom they married the child’s father. Unwed mothers had the right to claim maintenance from the putative father of the child, but the proportion of fathers acknowledging paternity was small. Most of the unwed mothers originated from landless groups.
Illegitimate infants in past times are generally considered to have been among the most vulnerable population groups. In our case-study, illegitimate babies were around twice more likely to be born dead than those born to an official union. In Holstre, illegitimate live-born children were around twice as likely to have died before the age of one year than those born to married parents from 1834 to 1869 but this difference disappears from 1870-91 (IMR for both groups 15.9%). In Helme, the difference was negligent from 1834-69 (11%) but roughly doubles from 1870. In Holstre, differences in mortality according to legal status can be observed also after children had reached age one: 22.7% of illegitimate children who survived the first year of life in 1834-69 died between ages one and five and in 1870-91 10.5% (on average, 3.6 and 2.4% respectively). It will be discussed what role grandparents played in determining whether illegitimate infants and young children died or survived.
The outlook for the unwed mother and her illegitimate child was bleak but improved clearly from the 1870s onwards. The experience of rural Estonia suggests that bearing children outside marriage was mostly a form of deviancy rather as part of normal sexual culture. (Show less)

Sophie Vries, Paul Puschmann : Conceived in Sin. Out of Wedlock Fertility and Bridal Pregnancies in the Antwerp District, c. 1820-1920
Conceived in Sin
Out of Wedlock Fertility and Bridal Pregnancies in the Antwerp district, c. 1820-1920
Sophie Vries & Paul Puschmann

Although there was for centuries a taboo on out of wedlock sexuality in Europe, clearly not all Europeans preserved their virginity until the wedding night. The degree to which this socio-cultural and ... (Show more)
Conceived in Sin
Out of Wedlock Fertility and Bridal Pregnancies in the Antwerp district, c. 1820-1920
Sophie Vries & Paul Puschmann

Although there was for centuries a taboo on out of wedlock sexuality in Europe, clearly not all Europeans preserved their virginity until the wedding night. The degree to which this socio-cultural and religious norm was violated varied from society to society and over time. From the latter half of the eighteenth century on there was a clear rise in out of wedlock births and bridal pregnancies, especially pronounced in major cities, but certain rural regions were also affected. While some scholars have interpreted this as a sign of an early sexual revolution, others were more careful and have linked the phenomenon to urbanization and industrialization, and the weakening of social control, as a result of increased (rural-to-urban) migration. Out of wedlock fertility has also been linked to poverty and deviating social norms within specific communities. The debate about the underlying causes of the rise and decline in eighteenth and nineteenth-century out-of-wedlock fertility continue and we aim to contribute to this debate by empirical analysis on population data from the Antwerp COR*-database, consisting of both population registers and birth, marriage and death certificates. This unique database covers the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century Antwerp district, including Antwerp city – the largest and fastest growing Belgian city at the time - as well as its rural hinterland. The data allows us to study geographic patterns (between urban, sub-urban and rural areas) in bridal pregnancies and out of wedlock births, as well as trends over time, and seasonality patterns. We will also test specific theories and hypothesis with the help of multivariate analysis, for instance, whether single migrant women were at an increased risk of becoming pregnant. (Show less)

Karin Wienholts : Comparing Mortality Risks of Legitimate and Illegitimate Children in the Netherlands, 1811-1922. Unraveling the Links between Marital Status, Social Class and Sex of the Child
Historians have shown that child mortality increased in the Netherlands in the first decades of the nineteenth century, whereby mortality of children born out of wedlock exceeded the mortality of children born intra-maritally. In the second part of the century child mortality decreased, especially during the last decades, thanks to ... (Show more)
Historians have shown that child mortality increased in the Netherlands in the first decades of the nineteenth century, whereby mortality of children born out of wedlock exceeded the mortality of children born intra-maritally. In the second part of the century child mortality decreased, especially during the last decades, thanks to improved health care and sanitation as well as the installation of drinking water facilities. The survival rate of children born out of wedlock however, remained unfavorable compared to the survival rate of children born intra-maritally. Further research on child mortality in the Netherlands shows an excess female mortality under certain conditions. This raises the question if there is a link between the sex of the child, the civil status of the mother and the social class of the family.

This paper investigates the influence of illegitimacy on the survival rate of children in the Netherlands in the nineteenth and early twentieth century and explores the intersectionality with social class and sex of the child. Research for this paper is based on a data set of about 60,000 birth and death certificates registered in the Netherlands between 1811 – 1922 from the Historical Sample of the Netherlands (HSN), release 2017.01. The social class of the family is derived from the occupation of the person registered in the HSN birth certificates as informer, re-coded according to HISCLASS (release 2018.01). The mortality rate of illegitimate and intra-marital children born in the period 1811 – 1922 is analyzed using the OLS regression method. Interaction terms are used to explore intersectionalities in vulnerability of children born out of wedlock with respect to sex and social class.

Keywords: illegitimacy, child mortality, excess female mortality, nineteenth century, Netherlands. (Show less)



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